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15.11.2005 General News

National treasury, payroll to be decentralized

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Accra, Nov. 15, GNA - The disbursement of the Consolidated Fund would be decentralised with effect from January 1, 2006, Mr Daniel Domelevo, Director of the Controller and Accountant-General's Department, said on Tuesday.

He said in line with the decentralization system, all Districts and Municipal Assemblies, Regional Administrations and Ministries, had been asked to open Treasury Units and the Bank of Ghana (BOG) had also been instructed to open treasury accounts for each of them. Mr Domelevo announced this at a public forum organized by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) in collaboration with the World Bank and Joy FM to discuss issues bothering on the correlation between corruption and economic growth and development. He noted that it was the belief of the A-G's Department that the decentralized disbursement of the Consolidated Fund would cut the cost of government business and reduce corruption in public funds administration considerably.

Mr Domelevo explained that the current public finance administration system operated in a way that made it difficult for procurements done in the regions and districts to be paid for in time as most of the payments were made in Accra. "The current system also makes it difficult to prevent more ghost names from staying on the payroll because in the event of someone resigning in the Bawku District, it takes a long time for the records to be regularized in Accra to stop issuing money out in the name of that person and that way some corrupt officials would keep siphoning those moneys into their pockets," he said

Mr Domelevo said the decentralised treasury system being proposed by the A-G's Department would allow the respective Treasury Units in the regions, district and various ministries to receive and administer allocations of the Consolidated Fund at their level for the payment of salaries, contracts and projects.

This, he said, would make it easier and faster to release funds for contracts, salaries and projects and also give heads of institutions easy access to the treasury units and regularize the records of their payrolls quicker to weed out potential ghost names in the event an employee resigned.

He said the A-G's Department had for the past one month been holding workshops and seminars to critically look at the pros and cons of the new system to ensure that it would run smoothly when implemented on January 1.

"We have weighed the pros and cons well and we can assure the public that come January 1, 2006 this system would take off smoothly and ease the burden of administering payroll and MDAs treasuries on the A-G's Department," he said.

Mr Domelevo noted that this system was even the more necessary because the public procurement Act 663 had decentralized the public procurement system but payments for contracts awarded even in the districts continued to be made in Accra, saying, that defeated that efficiency expected in decentralizing the public procurement system. He said the A-G's Department had also given up its public institutions audit responsibilities to a special Public Audit Department set up for that specific purpose, adding, that was necessary to ensure proper checks and balances as the A-G's Department issued public funds and should, therefore, be audited by a separate body and not by its own self.

The A-G's Department Director touched on recent media reports of corruption in the Department saying that the it had more than 3,500 employees and if only six had been identified as corrupt that could not mean the whole Department was corrupt.

Mr Domelevo explained that the arrest of those six employees of the Department was a sign of vigilance on the part of the Department against corruption.

He said due to this particular case involving cheques for IRS (Internal Revenue Service) that were diverted to IR Samuels and Sons, all public institutions had been directed to write full names instead of initials to prevent such manipulations of cheques and diversions of funds.

Mr Domelevo noted that the situation where corrupt practices of Senior Government Officials were described as "causing financial loss to the State" and junior staff's corrupt practices described as "stealing and theft" must change, saying that theft was theft no matter who committed it.

He said since the passage of the Public Finance Administration Act into Law, the A-G's Department had requested for Public Finance Administration tribunals to prosecute persons, who embezzled or misused public fund, but to date the tribunals had not been established. Mr Domelevo said the situation was making it difficult to effectively prosecute people, who misused public funds as the judges and judicial staff of the ordinary tribunals did not understand the intricacies of public finance and accounting to be able to counter claims by such corrupt person properly during trial.

"We need laws and institutions to mandate public inst itutions and private person, who win government contracts to be transparent and accountable to us and the citizenry at large," he said.

Mr Agyenim Boateng Agyei, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Public Procurement Board, noted that public procurement constituted between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of State expenditure and 14 per cent of GDP, so the Government continued to lose billions of cedis every year due to poor procurement practices.

He said due to poor procurement practices, the need to ensure transparency, overly priced goods and services, procurement of shoddy goods, poor contract management, abandoned projects and others continued to plague the State.

Mr Agyei observed that lack of adequate professionally trained procurement experts in the public sector was largely responsible for the poor practice, saying that the polytechnics had trained several procurement staff but their status had still not been determined to enable the public institutions to employ them.

Mr Daniel Batidan, Representative of GACC, expressed regret that the enumeration of problems in the public procurement system as outlined by the CEO and suggested that the Board should be providing solutions instead of telling the public about problems.

He said the public had identified more corruption in the procurement system than the Board had and they (the public) was looking up to the board to fix the situation instead of announcing the problems. Mr Batidan was particularly worried over the sole sourcing system widely used in the public procurement system in this country, which he said made room for heads of institutions to award contracts to their cronies and favourites even before other bidders could have a chance to bid for the contract.

"Corruption is not an economic indices nor a documentary problems, it is a human problem, which needs action rather than rhetoric. Laws are not human beings to walk on the streets to enforce themselves, they must be enforced by human beings," he said. Mr Mats Karlsson, Country Director of World Bank, said it was high time developing countries moved from the theoretical reflection of corruption into specific action at stamping out corruption. "It is not enough to discuss and analyse corruption in the system, because this is the age for action driven anti-corruption strategies - it is a frontline action for developing countries in particular and the time is now," he said.

Dr. Joe Abbey, Director of Center for Policy Analysis (CEPA), said this was not time to pride oneself with statistics on corruption but action to stamp out corruption and put economic growth on the path of acceleration instead of deceleration.

He said the political rhetoric about zero tolerance for corruption should be backed with real action to stop the flight of financial and human resources from the shores of the country. Dr Abbey also advocated steps to address the poverty problems as a means to preventing corrupt practices, saying that several people dipped their hands into State coffers because of poverty. 15 Nov. 05

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